Art News

The Nairobi National Museum Presents an Exhibition Centered on Trees

artwork: Ancient Soi - “Nairobi Gamepark”, 2009 - Oil on canvas - 70 x 96 cm. - Courtesy Maasai House - On view at the Nairobi National Museum in "Tree of Life"

Nairobi, Kenya – In support and celebration of 2011, the ‘International Year of Forests’ Maasai House has organized an exhibition to raise awareness and create dialogue around trees and the environment entitled the “Tree of Life” at the Nairobi National Museum . The exhibition boosts the International Year of Forests efforts to raise awareness through art on display in the hope that Kenyans will become more sensitive to the environment and how what we do or what we don’t do will affect our forests, lives and that of the generations we hope will follow. Kenya and Finland share the same sentiment when it comes to forests and the exhibition is being supported by the Finnish embassy.

This exhibition was organized in support and in celebration of the ‘International Year of Forests’. Maasai House thanks all those who have assisted with the exhibition and special thanks is given to the individual artists who have contributed to the ongoing discussion and education of Kenya’s forests and in particular Karura Forest in Nairobi with their interpretation of the ‘Tree’ theme through their paintings, sculpture and photography. Several artists have taken direct inspiration form Karura Forest and Maasai House welcomes their attempts to help raise awareness and create dialogue around trees and the environment. Karura Forest is a 1300 hectare, pristine jewel of both indegineous and exotic trees right in the City of Nairobi. The Friends of Karura Forest have secured this forest by erecting a fence around it. Its now open for public enjoyment for that morning jog, a serene nature walk, a discovery walk of the Mau Mau caves along Karura river amidst a misty waterfall or a quiet birdwatching experience where more than sixty birdspecies make the place their home. A place for everyone young and old.

artwork: Anthony Wanjau - “Jiggers”, 2009 - Wood carving - 37 x 64 x 22 cm. Courtesy Maasai House. - On view at the Nairobi National Museum.

Kenyans, especially forest adjacent communities rely on forests for essential goods and services for their livelihoods. More than 80% of Kenyans outside urban areas depend on forests for firewood, grazing, herbal medicine, and water among other benefits. The role of forests to the economy is also critical for mainstay sectors including agriculture, tourism, and energy. In light of these benefits to Kenyans and millions of people around the world, 2011 was declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations as a means to raise awareness and strengthen the sustainable forest management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations. The exhibition highlights the harmony that should exist, specifically between man and nature, with life in the forests as’ the focus.

The history of the Nairobi National Museum dates back in 1910 when a museum was established in Nairobi by the then East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society. The group consisted mainly of colonial settlers and naturalists who needed a place to keep and preserve their collections of various specimens. Its first site was at the present Nyayo House. The site soon became small and a larger building was put up in 1922 where the Nairobi Serena Hotel stands. It was not until 1929 that the colonial government set aside land at the Museum Hill and construction work started at the current site. It was officially opened in Sept. 22 1930 and named Coryndon Museum in honour of Sir Robert Coryndon, one time Governor of Kenya and a staunch supporter of Uganda Natural History Society. On the attainment of independence in 1963, it was re-named NMK. Since 1960s, NMK has expanded its services and assets to include Regional Museums, and has acquired under its jurisdiction Sites and Monuments which the Government has set aside as monuments of national heritage. Each of the Regional Museums has its own identity and develops its own programmes.

artwork: Camille Wekesa - “Premonition”, 2011 - Oil on canvas (dyptich) - 180 x 296 cm. Courtesy Maasai House.  - On view at the Nairobi National Museum.

Towards the end of 1990s, NMK received financing from European Union within the framework of National Museums of Kenya Support Programme (NMKSP) to finance much needed change. The “Museum in Change” programme, as is popularly known, was geared towards making NMK an outward looking institution that responds to visitors’ needs while providing quality services and products. The climax of the change process has been a new corporate brand identity for NMK. The new identity is meant to position NMK as the destination choice in the heritage tourism sector resulting into a vibrant, strong and progressive institution. The new identity positions NMK as a ‘Custodian of heritage’ with the following brand values: Authentic, reliable, unifying, caring and authoritative. Nairobi National Museum is located at the Museum Hill,approximately 10 minutes drive from the Nairobi city centre accessible both by public and private means. Built in 1929, this is the flagship museum for the National Museums of Kenya, housing celebrated collections of Kenya’s History, Nature, Culture and Contemporary Art. The Museum aims to interpret Kenya’s rich heritage and offers a one stop for visitors to sample the country’s rich heritage both for education and leisure. In addition to the museum, visitors are treated to a variety of shopping and dinning facilities, as well as botanical gardens that offer a serene environment. Visit the museum’s website at …